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Stepping up to the Spartan Scholarship Challenge

Group of MSU friends, colleagues are first to step up to challenge

Spartan Helmet

Faculty, staff, and retirees from across campus are responding to the Spartan Scholarship Challenge to significantly increase scholarship support for students in need. Of the 50 new undergraduate scholarships that have been created, more than a dozen are the result of gifts from donors within the university.

Launched on November 1, 2009, the challenge leverages $7 million from a $10 million anonymous gift in a novel matching program to help donors stretch their dollars and support for undergraduate scholarships. For every two dollars given to establish a new scholarship endowment, one dollar will be designated from the matching funds. The match opportunity expires when the funds have been exhausted or by December 31, 2010, whichever comes first.

Gifts of $20,000 to $1 million will be matched and used to create new endowment funds in the donor’s name or in the name of someone they wish to honor. The initial gift payment must be made by Dec. 31, 2010 with final payment by Dec. 31, 2014. Gifts below $20,000 can be directed to the university-wide Spartan Scholarship Challenge Endowment.

Friends pool raises

Among the first to step up to the challenge were a group of MSU friends and colleagues. As the university faced reductions in state funding this past year, more than 130 faculty and staff donated their annual raises back to the university to support student scholarships. Five friends took this a step further by pledging to give back their raises for several years while also capitalizing on the matching opportunity.

Wives were consulted and the MSU Leadership Endowment for the Spartan Scholarship Challenge was created through gifts from Bill Latta (’73, Social Science, ’75, ’83, Education) and Mary Ann Latta, (’74, Human Ecology); Bill Beekman (’89, James Madison) and Cindy Beekman (’89, Business); David Brower (’69, ’70, Business); David Gift (’75, Natural Science, ’80, Engineering) and Debra Gift (’77, Human Ecology); Jeff Kacos (’71, Social Science) and Phyllis Kacos.

Recognizing tough climate

Wanting to help during a tough economic time, Sociology Professor Harry Perlstadt and his wife Tari created their scholarship to benefit any undergraduate student with financial need. Harry has been a dedicated member of the MSU faculty for over 40 years and Tari has worked for the MSU Libraries. He is recognized internationally for his expertise in medical sociology, health care organizations and delivery, and evaluation research. The couple made their gift just before embarking on a new MSU adventure. They are currently living in Budapest where Harry is a Fulbright Scholar at Semmelweis University.

MSU Board of Trustee Member Dianne Byrum (’74, Agriculture and Natural Resources) and her spouse James Byrum (’74, ANR) were also motivated to give back in order to help students. Dianne is a partner with Byrum & Fisk Advocacy Communications and a veteran politician who served more than 20 years as a county commissioner, state representative, and state senator. James is the president of the Michigan Agri-Business Association. The couple credits their MSU education as an important part of their success. They established the James and Dianne Byrum Spartan Scholarship to help others succeed. “MSU, and in particular the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, has been a major force in our careers and we wanted to provide assistance to others who may benefit from experiencing the same educational opportunities,” Dianne said.

Teachers honored

College of Engineering Dean Satish Udpa and Professor Lalita Udpa saw the challenge as an ideal opportunity to honor the individuals who laid the foundation for their education and careers. The couple is establishing a scholarship in the names of their parents: Vasanthi and S. Ramamohan Udpa and Janaki and S. V. Srinivasan. “Our parents played a vital role in our early education,” Satish explained. “They were our first teachers and mentors, and the first to introduce the notion that knowledge is valuable for its own sake.”

Careers marked

For Howard (Mac) (MA ’69, Education) and Helen (MA ’76, Human Ecology) Dashney, the challenge offered a chance to expand their support of excellence in education. The Mac and Helen Dashney Spartan Scholarship pays tribute to their lifelong careers dedicated to the education of students at Michigan State and in Michigan public schools. In Helen’s tenure at the Eli Broad College of Business, she has advised countless students in her roles as director of MBA Career Services and the Financial Markets Institute.

Bob and Reggie Noto established the Noto Spartan Scholarship Challenge to celebrate Bob’s fifteenth anniversary serving as MSU’s vice president for Legal Affairs and 30 years as a higher education attorney. A preference for College of Music students was a natural fit for the Notos, who have made previous donations to benefit MSU music students and have made music education a family priority.

“We’ve been deeply impressed by the faculty and student performances we’ve attended,” Bob said. “Most important, helping the College of Music attract the best students is critical to public recognition of MSU’s commitment to excellence in the arts and humanities, a necessary component of the university’s success, central to its ability to bring the most talented faculty, students, and staff— whatever their disciplines—to MSU.”

Team spirit and leadership

The College of Arts and Letters, led by Dean Karin Wurst, together with Associate Deans Marilyn Frye, David Prestel, and Janet Swensen, pledged gifts to create the CAL Dean’s Spartan Scholarship. The gift honors the team’s commitment to high quality programs and access. “The scholarship effort honors the collaborative nature of this leadership team in moving the College of Arts and Letters a significant step forward in enhancing the student experience, in fostering, measuring, and rewarding high quality teaching, research, and outreach,” said Dean Wurst.

Lasting impact

To students at MSU, there is no more important help than the gift of a scholarship. Scholarships ease the financial burden for many who otherwise might not have been able to afford the opportunity. MSU senior Jeremy Blaney came to MSU after four years in military service and noted he was humbled to receive a scholarship. “The gift of a scholarship is life-changing and transformative,” he said. “A Spartan can really change another Spartan’s life, who in turn could change another Spartan’s life…making it possible for one Spartan to really change the world.”